Frequently Asked Question: So You're Consultants?

Often, when I first explain what I’m doing at GXG, I hear “oh, so you’re in consulting?” Sometimes it feels easier to say yes, but I’ve found over the course of many of these conversations that once someone has mentally bucketed us as business consultants, it takes a lot longer to help them understand what we actually do. That’s why I like to start conversations by literally drawing them a picture whenever possible.

This is me scribbling my framework for how businesses get stuck. Together a prospective client and I can take over a whole whiteboard (or napkin).

Thanks to a recent article by David Komlos and David Benjamin for Chief Executive, I now have a contrasting picture to show just how different the flow of learning-to-solution-to-execution is in our model versus consulting. As the article mentions, traditional business consulting has its uses for complicated problems where prior experience allows for easy tweaks to implement a solution they’ve delivered many times before. But the structure of the traditional consulting model fails when applied to complex challenges like the ones we help solve at GXG ("how to double your growth rate, transform a culture, merge successfully, take out cost sustainably, deliver a world-beating customer experience"). The article calls this the hub and spoke model, and it’s something many of us are familiar with from corporate life.

What a hypothetical traditional consulting engagement might have looked like at one of our clients.

The experts (consultants) are brought in to do research, interviews, and analysis – all sources of information which flow into them, the hub. The client employees feed in knowledge, experience, and perspectives (the spokes) but are otherwise passive. They wait for the solution to be generated and delivered. It reminds me of the much discussed “black box” problem in AI powered business solutions: how can you expect executives to act on AI-generated recommendations when they have no insight into how those recommendations are assembled? But we’ve been using consultants this way for decades. Contrast this with how GXG advisory boards work. 

Same client, but this is how knowledge actually flowed through their GXG advisory board engagement.

Rather than hub and spoke, our model is more like a crucible.  Internal stakeholder and external people with practical, operational experience are gathered together to prioritize and pressure-test key strategic initiatives.

We facilitate these meetings in order to create collisions; the “deliberate, highly effective exchange between individuals, where they are intentionally and briefly brought together to interact on something important.” All of that wisdom flows between each person in the room.

We (sometimes intentionally, sometimes randomly) mix and match small groups to play off of different strengths depending on the issue at hand. The results are exponential. I heard recently from a client advisory board participant that he was often surprised at where the learning was coming from. The way we facilitate learning avoids expected formats and leaves openings for people to blend ideas and quickly incorporate new input.

I'm very sensitive to giving the impression that I'm bashing consultants when I try to differentiate GXG. I'm not. We've had some great successes coming in behind major consulting projects that have given our clients a detailed picture of what they need to do. I just know we're more effective in helping them see how they can do it, what to expect, and how to measure success. 

Are you wrapping a consulting engagement and wondering what to do next? Contact us at info@gxg.co. 


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